Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
The Reubenites and Gadites request Moses to give them their inheritance on this side of Jordan, Num 32:1-5. Moses expostulates with and reproves them, Num 32:6-15. They explain themselves, and propose conditions, with which Moses is satisfied - they are to build cities for their wives and children, and folds for their cattle, and go ever Jordan armed with the other tribes, and fight against their enemies till the land is subdued; after which they are to return, Num 32:16-27. Moses proposes the business to Eleazar, Joshua, and the elders, Num 32:28-30. The Gadites and Reubenites promise a faithful observance of the conditions, Num 32:31, Num 32:32; on which Moses assigns to them, and the half tribe of Manasseh, the kingdom of Sihon, king of the Amorites, and the kingdom of Og, king of Bashan, Num 32:33. The cities built by the Gadites, Num 32:34-36. The cities built by the Reubenites, Num 32:37, Num 32:38. The children of Machir, the son of Manasseh, expel the Amorites from Gilead, Num 32:39, which Moses grants to them, Num 32:40. Jair, the son of Manasseh, takes the small towns of Gilead, Num 32:41. And Nobah takes Kenath and its villages, Num 32:42.
Ataroth, and Dibon, etc. - The places mentioned here belonged to Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan, which being conquered by the Israelites, constituted ever after a part of their territories, Num 32:33.
Let this land be given unto thy servants - Because it was good for pasturage, and they had many flocks, Num 32:1.
Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite - It was Jephunneh that was the Kenezite, and not Caleb. Kenaz was probably the father of Jephunneh.
We will build - cities for our little ones - It was impossible for these, numerous as they might be, to build cities and fortify them for the defense of their families in their absence. Calmet supposes they meant no more than repairing the cities of the Amorites which they had lately taken; which work might have been very easily accomplished in the time which they spent on this side of Jordan, before they went over with their brethren, to put them in possession of the land.
Because of the inhabitants of the land - These were the Ammonites, Moabites, Idumeans, and the remains of the Midianites and Amorites. But could the women and children even keep the defenced cities, when placed in them? This certainly cannot be supposed possible. Many of the men of war must of course stay behind. In the last census, Numbers 26, the tribe of Reuben consisted of 43,730 men; the tribe of Gad, 40,500; the tribe of Manasseh, 52,700; the half of which is 26,350. Add this to the sum of the other two tribes, and the amount is 110,580. Now from Jos 4:13 we learn that of the tribes of Reuben and Gad, and the half of the tribe of Manasseh, only 40,000 armed men passed over Jordan to assist their brethren in the reduction of the land: consequently the number of 70,580 men were left behind for the defense of the women, the children, and the flocks. This was more than sufficient to defend them against a people already panic struck by their late discomfitures and reverses.
The children of Gad built - Aroer - This was situated on the river Arnon, Deu 2:36; Kg2 10:33. It was formerly inhabited by the Emim, a warlike and perhaps gigantic people. They were expelled by the Moabites; the Moabites by the Amorites; and the Amorites by the Israelites. The Gadites then possessed it till the captivity of their tribe, with that of Reuben and the half of the tribe of Manasseh, by the Assyrians, Kg2 15:29, after which the Moabites appear to have repossessed it, as they seem to have occupied it in the days of Jeremiah, Jer 48:15-20.
And Nebo - their names being changed - That is, Those who conquered the cities called them after their own names. Thus the city Kenath, being conquered by Nobah, was called after his name, Num 32:42.
Havoth-jair - That is, the villages or habitations of Jair; and thus they should have been translated. As these two tribes and a half were the first, says Ainsworth, who had their inheritance assigned to them in the promised land, so they were the first of all Israel that were carried captive out of their own land, because of their sins. "For they transgressed against the God of their fathers, and went a whoring after other gods. And God delivered them into the hands of Pul and Tiglath-Pilneser, kings of Assyria, and they brought them to Halah, Habor, Hara, and Gozan, unto this day." See Ch1 5:25, Ch1 5:26.